Men are unhealthy and much more likely to die sooner than women.
That is an important message that men should take to heart this summer, according to Dr. Gary Grosel, chief medical officer for UnitedHealthcare of Ohio.
“Men should take their health more seriously,” the doctor said.
New data released this spring have revealed that men in North Central Ohio have a life expectancy of just 76.2 years, compared to 81.2 years for their female counterparts.
“That’s a five-year difference,” Grosel noted.
Numbers reveal poor health
Numbers compiled by the federal Centers for Disease Control appear staggering for the typical man who lives in the United States.
The worst figure reveals that 51.9% of American men aged 20 and older have hypertension, and 40.5% of those in the same age group are clinically obese.
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Only 57.6% of men over 18 “met the 2008 federal physical activity guidelines for aerobic activity through leisure-time aerobic activity,” the CDC reports.
Not surprisingly, 13.2% of men of the legal age are considered to be in poor health.
The two leading causes of death for men are heart disease and cancer.
Men do not seek care like women
Women may live longer, but that’s not because men aren’t able to grow old or because females have fewer health issues.
“It’s because we seek health care much less than women do,” Grosel said. “Women are much more likely to be treated.”
Men do not schedule or keep regular doctor’s appointments. Women not only do, but they tend to then follow through with their doctor’s orders.
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“A lot of it is due to the animal kingdom itself,” Grosel said. “Males have to be stoic and self reliant.”
Society has told men that they are weak if they are not able to care for their own well being.
“So we don’t go and find out these things,” Grosel said. “We internalize it, and unfortunately, our coping mechanisms are not good.”
Drugs and alcohol use are more common among men, as is suicide.
Five pillars to overall health
“So what’s the answer?” Grosel asks. “Nothing new.”
The pillars of overall health are exercise, balanced diet, health care, sleep and mental wellbeing.
The doctor said that exercise can be broken into three different types: strength, aerobic and balance.
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“Something that not a lot of people look at it is balance,” Grosel said.
The key component of balance is flexibility, which comes from frequent stretching. This becomes more important as men age.
Strength training involves heavy lifting in the gym, and aerobic training comes from cardiovascular endurance workouts.
Relying on the food pyramid can help remind a lot of men that selecting food items from each of the food groups is essential to maintaining good health.
“Be a little careful with well processed foods,” Grosel said. “Everything in moderation.”
Having a primary care physician — a family doctor — will allow men to build a health record so that changes can be noticed quickly, and will provide a trusted resource if tough questions or decisions arise.
“Go to an annual care visit,” Grosel said. “Not only will you be screened for cancers or some heart issues that males are prone, but you’ll have your blood checked.”
When it comes to sleep, men should make it a priority to get a full seven hours each night, regardless of how busy they are or how wakeful they might feel.
“You’re more alert,” Grosel said. “You can do more things.”
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Finally, men should take a few steps to monitor their mental health, as well as that of their friends.
The doctor recommends that every man be part of a group of friends who talk regularly, either in person or over the phone.
“You can tell when someone is down and they need a boost,” Grosel said. “It’s just a great way of helping your mental health when you’re able to vent about something.”
Having a group of men to reach out to can also help prevent guys from falling into a rough patch.
“If you find yourself drinking yourself away, or using drugs, be truthful to yourself,” Grosel said. “Reach out because many people are going through anxiety and depression and everyone is affected by this.”